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Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make an Amazing Film

As indie filmmakers, we throw a lot of obstacles on our own path to creating a feature or short film. No obstacle is larger than the almighty screenplay. How many screenwriters and filmmakers do you know that have been working on the movie script for 3, 5, or 7 years? They keep chipping at it in hopes of cracking that nut or it gives them an excuse for not actually making a feature film.

I was no different. One of the biggest things that slowed, if not stopped my filmmaking journey was “the screenplay.” I decided to see if there was a different way to approach making a movie with my first feature film This is Meg, by creating a very structured story but have a heavy improv element to it.

Here’s the trailer to the film This is Meg we discussed in the episode:

In doing my research I came to realize that in the last few years, some of my favorite films happen to be (almost) entirely improvised. No structured screenplay. Some were huge tent pole studio movies, Oscar winners (Ironically for best screenplay) and small indie films. It certainly seemed to be a more prolific style among independent filmmakers and I find that it can mean success when they cast the right actors. Especially in the “Mumblecore” and “Dogma 95 indie film movements.

Iron Man had no screenplay?

My favorite “lack of screenplay” story was the Marvel Studios tent-pole, Iron Man. You heard me correctly. The film that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that show the world what a great leading  Robert Downey Jr could be. It remains one of the most enjoyable adaptations of a Marvel comic book to date.

iron man, no screenplay, indie film hustle

via Marvel Studios

Take a listen to what Jeff Bridges revealed in a recent interview.

“They had no script, man! They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.”

Although a story and structure were firmly in place, the dialogue wasn’t – leading to much improvisation on set, which accounts for the film’s energetic, sparky atmosphere.

“I said, ‘Oh, what we’re doing here, we’re making a $200 million student film. We’re all just fuckin’ around! We’re playin’. Oh, great!. That took all the pressure off. Oh, just jam, man, just play. And it turned out great!” Bridges recalled.

Here is a list of film I mention and discuss in detail in the podcast:

Take a listen to why you don’t need a screenplay to make an awesome movie.

Right-click here to download the MP3 
Download on iTunes Direct
Watch on IFH YouTube Channel



  1. Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
  2. Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
  3. Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
  4. – Closed Caption Your Indie Film ($10 off Your First Order)
  5. Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
  6. BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage


  1. Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
  2. Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
  3. Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons 
  4. Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
  5. The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters


  1. Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
  2. Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
  3. Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
  4. (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)

Action Items:

As a BONUS take a listen to this SXSW panel on how to shoot a nonscripted feature film. Awesome stuff:

Shooting and Editing a Non-Scripted Feature Film – SXSW Film Festival

An examination of the changing face of feature film production in the realm of the nonscripted, improvised feature film. Acclaimed director Barry Jenkins moderates a panel discussion with Filmmaker Amy Seimetz, Editor Nat Sanders and Director of Photography Benjamin Kasulke to examine their changing roles as collaborative filmmakers in the world of the improvised film.

We will look at the recent trend of improvised feature filmmaking in the American Indie scene and take a technical look at how the roles of Director, Editor, and Director of Photography intersect on a script-less feature film. We will discuss specific examples from improvised feature films worked on by Seimetz and Sanders and Kasulke, two longtime Independent collaborators. Through discussion of filmmaking technique and audience Q&A, we will explore the positives and negatives of working in this method.

Action Items:

If you like Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make an Amazing Film, then click below:

How Bad Do You Want Your Filmmaking Dream?, filmmaking dreams how bad do you want it

Filmmaking Fear
filmmaker, indie filmmaker, filmmakers, indie film hustle, alex ferrari, filmmaking podcast


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Podcasts You Should Be Listening To:
Podcast: Indie Film Hustle Podcast
Podcast: Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast
Podcast: The Filmtrepreneur® Podcast

Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)

Gain Access to IFHTV Here

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Facebook Comments


  1. GregForest on July 7, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Filled in the form like 3 times and click on “Download Book” and just wind up on this page. Am I missing something?

  2. […]  Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make a Great Film […]

  3. […] If you like Networking Like a Pro at Film Festivals, then click below: Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make a Great Film […]

  4. […] Related: Why You Might Not Need a Screenplay to Make a GREAT Feature Film […]


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